Monday 1 September 2008

I recently finished reading Don Thompson's The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Art and Auction Houses.

Like the art widow book, it had me alternatively engrossed (especially the bit about art institutions deaccessioning via sealed bid auctions) and squeaking with frustration (maybe - just maybe - some of these artists are actually amazing, not just mega-well-branded).

I almost quit at the introductory chapter though, when Thompson ruled out writing about photography because he's not that sure it's art. He doesn't really get it, he says, so he'll stick to paintings and sculpture.

I can't quite believe that people who obviously care about and are interested in art still stick at photography. So I'm throwing the question open here:


db said...

There's probably another reason other than prejudice at work in Thompson's exclusion of photography though (even if subconscious): the economics of the multiple seriously fuck with the market of the unique art object.

The story of a contemporary art system defined by reputation management and Hirstian ad-like strategies to guarantee "commercial value" seem to me to benefit some analysis of the shift from the work to the brand. If you're interested in another economist's take, Richard Caves' book Creative Industries: Contracts Between Art and Commerce Has (thankfully) very little to do with the current policy fashion for econfomic development, and makes a lot of useful comparisons about different creative sectors (art, film, etc), but always at the level of microeconomics.

First time commenter - thanks for your consistently interesting posts :).

Courtney Johnston said...

Hey - a "long time listener, first time caller" all of my very own! Welcome on board! That's a nice point about the conceptual difficulties of the multiple - what I see as making accessible I daresay other collectors see as diluting, or confusing, the value.

And thanks for the reading tip - I'll follow it up.

Anonymous said...

also most dealers arnt particuly interested in multipiles.especially if they are cheap ie too much work for to little $$.Whats an artist to do when you want to have a multipile out their and functining in all its multiplicity reaching an audiance with limited means, and i dont mean limited edition prints[which i see as rather cynical revenue generators of the greedy]

yours artist

Courtney Johnston said...

I'm assuming what you mean by 'limited edition prints' are ones not generated using traditional means (lithography, etching) but more like 'Can't afford the spin painting? hey - have a $45 mug instead'?

I had a notion once to open a gallery that dealt only in work that cost under $5K - which would be definition mean a lot of multiples. For the notion to work would, of course, require quite a lot of altruism on the behalf of artists.

One of the things I've noticed in recent years is artists who make multiples individually, by hand: take Ronnie van Hout's work for the Physics Room, or Dan du Bern's work shown at the Hirschfeld Gallery. Altruistic to the extreme.

Anonymous said...

maybe we are seeing some artists posing the idea of craft has a viable alt to the machine and in a climate of sustainable practices quite savy.also when made with the multiple in mind usually of a low price [here i think of fluxus type objects].As to altruism i wonder if most art contains something of this quality?